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How to empower your EA to make you truly shine as a leader.

In our fast-paced corporate world, the adage "it's lonely at the top" rings truer than ever. As an Executive Assistant (EA), I've had a front-row seat to witnessing the toll that overwork and overwhelm can exact on the leaders I've supported. Too often, they find themselves grappling with the heavy task of accomplishing more with fewer resources, bearing the weight of responsibility solely on their shoulders.

The sight of an executive burning out is a sobering experience. EAs occupy a unique and privileged vantage point, intimately connected to the struggles of their executive. We hear the strain in their voices, sense it in their responses, all the while striving to provide unwavering support through the storm.

Yet, despite our proximity to their challenges, some leaders hesitate to empower their EAs fully. The fear of investing in upskilling them, only to see them depart, is a sentiment I've encountered repeatedly. This reluctance to offer professional development stifles growth and perpetuates the cycle of overwhelm, ultimately harming both the leader and their EA.

So, how can overworked leaders break free from this exhausting cycle?

Embrace and empower: Leaders must offer their EAs opportunities that ignite their passion and amplify their impact. As they ascend the corporate ladder, they should bring their EAs along, fostering a relationship of mutual growth and support.

Speak up before you burn out: Silence is not a virtue when it comes to battling overwhelm. Leaders should speak up before reaching the point of burnout. EAs are there to provide support, so lean on them when needed. It's our job to protect your time and lighten your workload.

Trust and delegate: It's imperative leaders trust in the capabilities of their EAs. Even if it means starting with smaller tasks, gradually relinquishing control empowers your EA to take on more responsibilities.

Embrace imperfection: Mistakes are inevitable, but they also present invaluable learning opportunities. Leaders should refrain from scolding their EAs for errors, instead using them as stepping stones for growth—for both parties involved.

Share information and skills: Taking the time to impart knowledge and expertise to EAs is essential. Leaders should demonstrate how to handle tasks they've traditionally shouldered alone, allowing their EA to step into their roles as trusted partners. This is also a great space for informal mentoring - talk about your work experiences (good and bad) as well as talk about leaders who have been role models to you. Doing so creates a real point of connection.

Identify a clear responsibility split: Open communication about task allocation is key. Clarifying responsibilities and establishing a clear division of principal and non-principal tasks streamlines workflow and mitigates overwhelm for both leaders and EAs. In my opinion, a leader should leave their calendar to their EA! Understanding who does what means that when overwhelm hits the executive office, you both know exactly what to do - there's no time wasted discussing responsibility of regular tasks which allows you to get on with the job at hand.

Remember the first feeling of responsibility: Reflecting on moments when entrusted with full responsibility can inspire leaders to channel that trust into their relationship with their EAs. This empowers EAs to take charge and excel in their roles.

Empowering EAs isn't merely about lightening the leader's load—it's about fostering sustainable change and growth within an organisation. By sharing the burden, offering opportunities for development, and nurturing your EAs professional growth, you not only alleviate overwhelm but also cultivate a culture of collaboration and excellence.

Recognising the value of empowering EAs is crucial for effective leadership. By investing in their growth and development, leaders not only strengthen their own positions but also create a legacy of leadership that inspires others to rise to their full potential.

Country to Coast EA offers tailored workshops to organisations across Australia. Our workshop, "The EA of the 21st Century: from transactional secretary to strategic partner" empowers EAs to manage up and improve their toolkit, create a professional brand and increase confidence in their roles. Get in touch to enquire about a workshop at your workplace.


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